-- Guilty As Charged gets shredded --

Stijn Daneels
A free concert of Guilty As Charged is something you shouldn’t miss, especially not when they invite you over to eat Belgian fries, drink ice cold beer and have an interview all at the same night! That happened to me on February 5, 2016 when I went to the Kinky Star in Ghent. Although Dempsey passed on the opportunity to speak his piece, the other guys from the band were more than willing to get their shred at me!

So what do you get when you put four guys together who are all jacked up on fast food, alcohol and testosterone? You end up with an intimate conversation about the band’s latest album Leap of Faith, Metallica, dreadlocks, porn stars, judo and more! Let’s charge this one up, shall we?!

BMS: Tell me, folks, it has been eight years since you started Guilty As Charged. How has the band evolved in terms of songwriting and overall mentality?

Heinz: We certainly have taken ourselves more seriously as a band. In the beginning we were more aggressive in our performances and cared little about actually sounding good. Our skills with our respective instruments has improved compared to our early years and we’ve grown tighter both as a band and as friends.

BMS: I noticed on your band’s Facebook page that you started Guilty As Charged on New Year’s Day 2008. Was that a coincidence or did you suddenly came up with a rather unusual New Year’s Resolution?

Heinz: No, in fact we can’t precisely remember when we got started, but we do recall that we founded the band somewhere in 2008. We just randomly put in that January 1st date because we had to put something in there.
BMS: How did you come up with the name Guilty As Charged? I’d say you were inspired by the Metallica song Ride The Lightning (which features the phrase guilty as charged in the opening lyrics).
Heinz: Actually not at all!

BMS: Damn and here I am thinking I did some excellent homework. Guess I’m not so smart.

 Heinz: I remember we made up a list with several potential names for our band and eventually we settled with the name Guilty As Charged because the other names we had come up with sucked. Also, the name is inspired by our first EP, Boxed In, which deals with the idea of being found guilty of a crime you either did or did not commit and getting imprisoned for it.

Guilty as Charged from left to right: Dempsey Derous, Jan De Vuyssere, Hannes "Heinz" De Caluwé, Matthew Vandenberghe
BMS: I see. Well, I also had a few names in mind for my webzine, but Belgian Metal Guy or Belgian Headbanger were a bit too cheesy. So I decided to name it the Belgian Metal Shredder.
 Jan: How about the Belgian Metal Bitch?
BMS: Ha, ha! Nah, that’s more suitable for a porn star rather than for some random dude writing about the Belgian and international metal scene. But I’ll keep that name in mind in case I decide to go all kinky and shit!
BMS: Another thing I noticed is that Guilty As Charged’s lineup has remained perfectly consistent since its inception. How do you guys manage to remain together for all those years?

 Matthew: Although there have been some creative differences over the years, we’ve always fully respected each other’s individual opinions and musical influences.

 Heinz: That’s right indeed! We’ve not trying to turn Guilty As Charged into a supergroup featuring only the most talented musicians the Belgian metal scene has to offer. Neither do we want to be all influenced by the same music. We work on our strengths and weaknesses, both individually as well as collectively, and we won’t fire anybody from the band just because some highly skilled metal artist comes around and asks us to replace an existing band member with him or her.

BMS: In preparation for this interview, I listened a few times to your latest release, Leap Of Faith. I’ve got to say that I enjoyed listening to the album a lot. It reminded me of the early Megadeth and Metallica in particular.
Jan: Well, I used to be a big Metallica fan in my teenage years but I eventually found bands that I like more than Metallica. I do realize that my vocals are similar to James Hetfield’s, but I’m not trying to duplicate him.

Matthew: Neither do anyone of us. Jan aside, we don’t really like Metallica’s recent work and we definitely don’t want people to compare us with any big time metal band. We like to combine various metal styles into a unique package without trying to reach the conventions of any typical heavy metal subgenre. We simply love doing what we’re doing.

BMS: Well, I do genuinely enjoy Metallica and Megadeth, indeed their early albums in particular. And I can enjoy Metallica’s infamous black album to some degree. In any case, what are your future plans?
Jan: We’ve working hard on writing new songs. At the moment we have about five or six unfinished tracks and we hope to get our new material recorded and released in 2017. One thing I can already tell you is that the upcoming album will prove once and for all that, as Matthew just mentioned, Guilty As Charged can stand on its own merits with its own unique style of metal. The new album will include a mixture of power metal, thrash metal, classic heavy metal and more!

Matthew: We hope that this year we can have some more shows outside of Belgium. In the summer of 2015, we did a couple of weekend-tours abroad. We played in France, The Netherlands and Germany alongside Drakkar and FireForce.

BMS: Recently you joined JBM Events. How did the collaboration begin?
Jan: Matthew and Guy D’Haeseleer from JBM Events have known each other for some time and one day he offered us to become Guilty As Charged’s main booker. We didn’t think long about joining in.

Heinz: Hopefully we’ll be playing at a couple of festivals this year because of this co-op. We’re hopeful that 2016 will be a nice year for us!

Matthew (laughing): I hope that one day we’ll be able to perform in Abu Dhabi as a sort of opening band for Jeff Dunham and Jacques, the French Terrorist (the French brother of Ahmed, the Dead Terrorist).
BMS: Should that happen then I’ll come right along with you! No doubt about it! Now, I certainly believe that there are quite a few bands on JBM Events’ roster that you want to jam along with.
Heinz: Yes there are. Textures, Lord Volture, Maiden United,… And we’re looking forward to have a gig with Crucified Barbara. We all have a huge hard-on for all female metal bands! 
BMS: Great! I haven’t yet interviewed a band that consists of only female band members. Although I’ve already interviewed female fronted bands. The Skeptical Minds and Soul Collector.

BMS: Jan, you’re the one who provides lyrics to all songs of the band. Where do you get your inspiration from?
Jan: It’s not my style to sing about dragons, fairies or other stuff you’d see in a Lord of the Rings movie or in a Legend of Zelda videogame. My lyrics are mainly inspired by what I hear in the media. War, getting into trouble with your girlfriend, drinking and partying, losing someone, changing your life, child abuse. All the stuff that you read in the newspapers practically every day has inspired me to write songs like Preach to the Masses.
BMS: Heinz, I’ve noticed you’ve got some awesome looking dreadlocks. Did they take a long time to grow?
Heinz: Thanks for the compliment, Stijn! I’ve started growing my hair out when I was about fifteen years old and eventually got dreadlocks of the length I’ve got today when I was in my early twenties. My dreads used to be longer, but I recently had them cut a bit because it had already grown all the way down to my ass crack!
BMS: Yeah, I saw you playing in Roeselare last September and I think your dreadlocks were longer back then. Is it easy to maintain such long manes?
Heinz: Well, I have little work with my hair, I just dry it after showering and that’s about it. My hair, however, does get a bit in the way when I have to take a dump down the toilet. I always have to be careful that I don’t confuse my hair for toilet paper!
BMS: Ha, ha! Well, I’ve got very curly hair. When it gets longer, I wake up every day with shaggy hair and it’s difficult to make it look neat without using spray. But now I want to know your other activities aside from Guilty As Charged?
Heinz: I am working for Oostkamp, a municipality in West-Flanders, I also play in a quirky cover band called Bruges Swan Patrol. We dress up as police officers. We cover rock n’ roll music. All the way from the 50s up till today’s hits! Foto van Bruges Swan Patrol.

Matthew: Since I’ve got a wife and two kids, there’s little room for many other activities. However, I’m a huge soccer fan and support the Bruges football team!

Jan: I practice judo.
BMS: Whoa, I better keep my distance and avoid shaking your hand too hard or grabbing your arm too tightly. You might see that as an assault and throw me to the ground or break my arm with a Ronda Rousey styled armbar!

Jan: Oh, I won’t hurt you. Unless you publish a shitty interview!

BMS: I’ve never had any complaints. But speaking of judo, what’s your rank?
Jan: Brown belt.

Matthew: Actually he’s got a white belt, but one day he had to take a shit but realized too late that there wasn’t any toilet paper left. So he had to use something else instead!

Heinz: I have five black belts. In my car!

BMS: Ha, ha, good one, Heinz! Is there anything else you guys want to add before we return to the Kinky Star for the show?
Matthew: Sorry for not taking this interview seriously!

BMS: Don’t worry, Matthew, I’m sure I’ll have more than enough material to work with. And I love funny, entertaining conversations with bands like you! How about you, Jan and Heinz, got anything else to tell me?

Jan: I’ve got little more to say, thanks for talking to us and come have a beer with us after the gig!

Heinz: Yeah, thanks for the chat. I hope the fries were good.

BMS: They were good enough. Thanks for inviting me to come over. I look forward to your show tonight. I’m sure it will be as good as always when Guilty As Charged comes around!

Picture taken by Sander Van Damme of SVD Photography
Enjoy the opening track from Leap of Faith: Preach to the Masses.